Realistic Optimism: A Much-Needed Trait for Pastors and Christians Alike

Churches go through challenges.  While that’s not a newsflash to most, traveling this journey is not a picnic (both pastor and parishioner alike).  Last year, our church was going through a season of cash flow issues, but we also feel led to move forward with a remodel of our preschool area.  This year, we felt led to renovate one of our houses so our youth pastor-turned-associate pastor and his sweet family would have a place to live.

People possess different personalities: some possess great faith and optimism, while others come across as rather pessimistic.  The former can be classified by the latter as Debbie Downers, while the latter may look at the former as those with their head in the clouds, not dealing with reality.  I believe that both are needed to provide a needed tension (the good kind).  There’s a reason God puts both in churches.

Christians in general and pastors especially need to possess a much-needed trait as both move forward in whatever venture:

A realistic optimism.

This means that Christians need recognize the reality around them, but not be ruled by the eye but by the ear.

The eye looks and says,

  • “I don’t see how this will happen.”
  • “The budget isn’t allowing it.”
  • “If you ask for this special offering, it will take away from the general offering.”
  • “It can’t be done.”

God gives us the eye to diagnose the issues surrounding us, so the eye has some value!  A decided, steady realism must mark the Christian in evaluating our respective situations, then taking the proper steps to help remedy that situation.

But if the eye predominates our evaluating processes, and the eye alone, what results is fear, doubt, and panic when challenges arise; and pride, arrogance, and placidity when few challenges exist.  Each of these, God calls sin.  They do not belong in Spirit-led people.  In seasons of challenge as well as calm, we do not and must not identify ourselves strictly by what we see, but by what we’ve heard and know.

We are people of the ear, listening to God’s Word about God’s nature, God’s will, and what needs to happen among God’s people.  If He accomplished the forgiveness of our sins via Christ on the bloody cross and raising Him from the dead, He can handle whatever other issues in which He’s leading.

Does this not mean that deal with reality?  Yes–by faith, not by fear.  The only fear that should mark a Christian is a fear (a reverence, an awe) before the living God in Christ.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Dear pastor, deacon, and church member: we walk by faith (in what we’ve heard from the Word) and not by sight (in what we see in people and papers and policies and precedents).  Realistic optimism!  Prayerfully give it a try.

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